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5 ways to ensure a good culture fit when hiring a physician

Meeting of physician and others showing good culture fit

A good culture fit is essential for both physicians and their employers. Not only does it increase physician satisfaction, it also improves retention and creates a better work environment. Because a good culture fit is a win-win for everyone, it’s a good idea to make it a key component of your hiring strategy. Here are five ways to ensure a good physician culture fit for your organization.

1. Focus on your organization’s mission

One of the best ways to ensure a good culture fit is to make sure the candidate truly understands your organization’s mission and vision and that their values are aligned with yours.

Steven Jacobs, senior physician recruiter for Einstein Healthcare Network in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and president of the Mid-Atlantic Physician Recruiter Alliance, has put a lot of thought into how to do this. His team looked at Einstein’s mission statement and crafted interview questions based on the most important elements.

“We tried to really identify what we believe in, who we are, what we stand for, and then ask questions based on those components to see how people answer,” he says. “When someone asks you, ‘What does humanity mean to you?’ you can’t really Google it.

“If they don’t have a clue what we’re talking about, they probably wouldn’t be the right fit. Most people who do well at Einstein can answer that question because our mission is a human mission. So if someone says they have a desire to serve humanity and like serving others, that is what we want to hear, because that is what we do every day,” says Jacobs.

Mark Douyard, senior physician recruiter for Bayhealth Medical Center in Dover, Delaware, says that matching a candidate’s goals with his organization’s mission is challenging but one of the most important parts of the hiring process.

“We share our mission and values before the interview even starts, and we let them know those things are important to us,” Douyard says. “If they’re only asking about compensation, for example, that tells me that some of the other stuff isn’t as important to them.”

2. Ask the right questions

Questions are a key part of the interview process, but asking the right questions can help you understand if a candidate will be a good fit for your organization.

“I’m looking for team-building skills, so I ask behavioral questions, such as, ‘Tell me about a time when you had to work with a team and not everybody was pulling their own weight. How did that work out? What did you do? How did you get more people involved?’” says Douyard.

How a candidate answers a question can be just as critical. “It’s important to pay attention to how well people are listening,” Douyard says. “When somebody asks a question, are they answering the question that was asked, or are they telling people what they think they want to hear?”

“An interview should never be just about asking a candidate to ‘tell me a little about yourself’,” Jacobs says. “Each participant can have a section or area they focus on with one or two behavioral questions. The way the interview is structured and the questions you ask will help the candidate stay engaged and help their overall experience to be more positive.”

3. Listen carefully

Listening to what your candidates say is one of the best ways to determine a good physician culture fit.

“Ask the right questions and listen to the answers,” Douyard says. “As recruiters, we’re salespeople, and a lot of times we hear what we want to hear. I think the only way to get around that is to ask more questions. Don't be satisfied with the answer; just keep asking those same questions in a different way. Peel away the layers of the onion.”

Many candidates will tell you what they’re looking for, and it’s necessary to understand their expectations and whether your organization can meet them. “It’s not all about money,” says Douyard. “It’s what kind of environment I’m going to be working in and who are the people I’m going to be working with. The people who ask those kinds of questions are the people who tend to fit in better.”

4. Find time to be informal

You can learn a lot from a candidate in the moments in between formal interview sessions.

Douyard says he uses that time to try to figure out what’s important to a candidate and how they react in certain situations. “Pre-COVID we would have the candidate here most of the day. If you’re traveling around in a car between two campuses, sooner or later you’re going to start talking about stuff other than business. It gives you an opportunity to get to know a person,” he says.  

While it’s been harder to get that informal time with candidates during virtual interviews, Douyard is still trying to connect with candidates online. “I get on a zoom call about five minutes before the official meeting starts and I’ll stay on for a couple minutes after. That gives us time to talk about things and get some impressions while it’s fresh in their mind.”

Informal interactions are a key component of any visit or virtual encounter. Candidates who you have connected with tend to let their guard down, and the insights they reveal can be very helpful. “You have to be good at structured small talk,” Jacobs says. “It’s always a good idea to take the candidate’s temperature during these informal times.”

5. Pay attention to the red flags

Sometimes a candidate seems great on the surface, but small details can reveal that they may not be the best fit for your organization.

“When you look back, you see little clues in the interview,” says Douyard. “For example, how do they treat some of the people when they’re in meetings? Do they talk to the medical staff or do they ignore the people around them?”

Jacobs adds, “We look for basic things like overall demeanor, social skills, sense of humor. Are there short answers to questions they could have talked about for five minutes? I’m also looking at the answer itself and whether or not you’re actually giving me an answer or just filling space with words.”

Asking others who interact with the candidate for feedback can also help you identify issues you may have missed. Douyard asks the realtors he uses for real estate tours of the community for their impressions. “When a candidate and their family go out on a real estate tour, they're more relaxed, so that’s feedback we can use as well. We have actually had two candidates that we decided not make offers to after we got feedback about how rude they were.”

Finding the right fit

Hiring a new physician can be a difficult task for even the most seasoned recruiter but finding the right physician culture fit is essential for your organization.

“You’re going to get that one snapshot on the day of the interview, and they only get one chance to make a first impression with their answers. Having the interview connect back to the overall mission and values of the organization helps you ascertain if there is a synergy with your institutional message,” says Jacobs. “Try not to hire out of desperation.”

This article was originally published on CompHealth is one of CHG Healthcare’s family of brands. If you’d like staffing assistance during your recovery from COVID-19, please contact us at or by phone at 866.855.5996.

About the author

Alisa Tank

Alisa Tank is a communications coordinator at CHG Healthcare. She’s passionate about making a difference in the lives of others. In her spare time, she enjoys hiking, road trips, and exploring Utah’s desert landscapes.

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